Charlottesville: Thinking Biblically About Racism and Race-Based Violence
I’ll never forget the conversation I had with a friend that is planting a church in North Carolina. He had been there a few years and was seeing God work in his community, people getting saved, and the church was growing. But then he made this incredible statement:
“Our church stands out in our community because it is multi-ethnic.”
I asked him to explain the statement as I had no context, no way to process it. He went on to explain that in their community there was a lot of “white churches” and “black churches.” Only white people were welcome at the white churches and only black people were welcome at the black churches. He even told me that people stood outside the churches to make sure no one with the wrong skin color tried to enter.
That is a sad statement in modern America. And yet the statement that racism is alive and well was once again made when white supremacists and Nazis took to the streets of Charlottesville, VA to try and build unity through racism. I know; it’s an irony that is somehow lost on a group that adheres to an evil, sinful ideology. Is unity possible among a group that is willing to plow a car through a crowd of people, injuring many and killing an innocent woman? I agree with Ted Cruz when he said this is evil and deserving of justice.
As Christians, we need to think biblically about this incident, and about racism in general. Before we do that, I want to point out a couple of things that are important for us to consider.
First, the people involved in this demonstration were young. It has been common to think that racists are old, outdated people that will soon die and take their evil ideas with them. But, the faces in the crowd in Charlottesville were young. I can only assume that their grandfathers are dead because, if they were alive, they would denounce their activity and remind them that they fought a world war because of racism.
Second, racism is a human thing. It’s not merely a white thing, it’s something that any person is capable of and must guard against. Any person that believes another person, on the basis of their skin tone, is not equal, is a racist. I’ve seen acts of racism perpetrated by white people, black people, and Middle Eastern people. We cannot be so naïve (or arrogant) as to believe racism is only a white problem.
Third, racism comes in many forms. People of all colors applaud Planned Parenthood and yet this evil organization was founded by a racist, and for the purpose of exterminating African Americans. Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood was a racist eugenicist that believed blacks were inferior to whites. People are now demanding that confederate symbols be removed from public places, and yet, no one seems to mind that the work of one of America’s worst racists continues.
As we try to think biblically about racism, let me start by being as clear as I can be: no form of racism is acceptable. Violence against another person because of his or her skin color is evil. Discrimination based on skin color is evil. And for the Christian, racism is sin and heresy.
Albert Mohler makes a poignant statement on this subject from the city of Berlin as he looks upon the ruins of a church bombed during World War II:
“But Christians must see much more than the lessons of history, though we dare not miss them. We must see claims of racial superiority–and mainly that means claims of white superiority–as heresy. That is not a word we use casually. Heresy leads to a denial of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the eclipse of the living God as revealed in the Bible. A claim of white superiority is not merely wrong, and not merely deadly. It is a denial of the glory of God in creating humanity—every single human being–in his own image. It is a rejection of God’s glory in creating a humanity of different skin pigmentation. It is a misconstrual of God’s judgment and glory in creating different ethnicities. Most urgently, it is a rejection of the gospel of Christ–the great good news of God’s saving purpose in the atonement accomplished by Christ. A claim of racial superiority denies our common humanity, our common sinfulness, our common salvation through faith in Christ, and God’s purpose to create a common new humanity in Christ. You cannot preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and hold to any notion of racial superiority. It is impossible.”
I want to reiterate Mohler’s statement that you “cannot preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and hold to any notion of racial superiority.” For any Christian, any pastor, that attempts to speak of Jesus and His gospel while holding to racist beliefs, you are in sin, you are committing an evil in God’s sight and must repent. You are not God’s ambassador, you stand condemned.
For Christians, we must remember that God is the Creator of all people, that every human being is an image-bearer of God, and we are called to love all people. I appreciated a prayer released by Kevin Smith on his social media that began with this verse:
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35
Our neighbors, friends, co-workers and families will know that we are disciples of Jesus when they see the love we have for all people. Regardless of skin color, political affiliation, or socio-economic status, we are called to love people. When we love people really well, especially when they don’t love us, the world will see Jesus in us.
Christians can think biblically about these events by rejecting any ideology that values one life above another. We can think biblically by seeking to love all people in the same way Jesus loved us: unconditionally. And we can think biblically by calling people with racist attitudes, thoughts, and behaviors to repent.